Category Archives: travel

Little Italy, Big Blessings

My husband is fortunate to go to conferences that take him to other places.  This recent conference he’s attending is in  San Diego.  By the goodness of his heart, he asked me to come along  with him and take advantage of the ocean air.  No need for me to think twice, so I jumped on the opportunity.

We haven’t traveled like we used to.  By this time, midway through year, we usually have taken 3 trips.  Our marriage life has changed. Like mentioned before, Mom lives with us and so our decision making is based around her.  No complaints!  Just what we can do to make our lives balanced.

I always appreciate these trips.  Partly because it’s paid for by his employer and gives me time to think.  For some reason, I can’t think when mom is under my care.  My blogging for one is less.  Can’t seem to gather my thoughts.  I would like to work on that though.

There wasn’t much of a plan to my schedule while in San Diego.  I knew I wanted to think, have conversations with my husband, blog, read, and of course pray. I didn’t want to commit myself either.  Didn’t want to have to be somewhere if I was in the middle of  giving something attention.

Some people don’t mind that but for me, I can’t function that way. I need to.  Cut off communication for a bit so I can do what I need and desire to do.

Like let things come.  For example, yesteday was truly a treat!  I had just dropped off my husband at the conference and drove our rental down to Little Italy. I love hanging out in that area because yes, it makes me feel just a little, that I’m somewhere in Italy.  There are many you walk past who are speaking Italian.  The food is great and the cappucinos are even better.  I mean, when I can still drink a cappucino outside in June is a holiday to me. So after I parked my car in the parking lot that charges you way too much knowing you are either not going to park for two hours so let’s just give them a second option of 8 hours and gouge them.  After I paid $18, I knew I just wanted to pop into Our Lady of the Rosary Church which is right next to the parking lot.  Doors were wide open on a Monday about 11:30a.  I thought ‘oh it must be for us tourists’, so I found a pew, bended down on one knee doing the sign of the Cross, and knelt in prayer.  As I was near done, I saw there was a line gathering near what looked like the confessional??  Sure enough, they were.  I thought what is the chance I’m here?  First of all, I didn’t feel very well since I had been having stomach issues but thought no, I have time why shouldn’t I stay here. I got behind the last person and waited.

Thought there might be the chance, where I wasn’t going to get in.  There were quite a few people, but thankfully I made it.  After stating my sins, the grandfatherly like Priest (older man for sure), gave me spiritual direction I’ve heard before but for some reason, I needed to hear again.  He said “fight the devil” to the sins I confessed first and then said “God is under control, we have nothing to worry”, when I responded to “do you have anything more to add?”  His voice was strong, full of authority, experienced, but sincere.  How could I not take his advice and the penance I needed with understanding.

I left the confessional feeling brave.  I thought “wow, thank you Lord for bringing me here”. But then, after I rose my head up from praying,  I noticed people were coming in for holy Mass.  Sure enough, Mass was beginning at noon.  Once again, I told myself, well there’s nothing better I wanted to do than keeping myself in the pew and attend Mass.  This little parish is old school.  The parish itself is 120 years old.  The prayers said before Mass were not what I’m accustomed to. There was also a good amount of parishioners gathered.

When Mass ended, I hesitated to just get up and leave.  I thought what next??  But sure enough, the faithful departed. And I left feeling lifted!  How much I was meant to be there!

There are certain trips where I have an agenda.  Mainly, new places we have never visisted. But when I travel most relaxed, there are blessings that come with it.  Allowing God to speak to me because how He knows well, that I busy myself in thought, and don’t let what is needed to get done!

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Thank you Holy Spirit, just passing the celebration of Pentecost.  To know what is in my heart always, even before I speak, so that you know what I need help with. thank you Lord, for caring for us even when we think it is going a different direction. To pull back, help to refocus, and see where you want us to head next!

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

 

Sidenote:  this parish, Our Lady of the Rosary, is undergoing renovations.  See their website to donate.  Also, if ever in Little Italy, San Diego, besides stopping at this parish, go to their gift shop as well.  Best shop with best variety I’ve ever seen.

Parts Truly Unknown

On Friday morning, I get a text at 6 a.m. from my friend Angela informing me that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  She knew how much I liked him and knew this would be hard for me to hear. My husband was on his way out for work as I read out the text to him.  He said, “I know. I didn’t want to wake you up with that news.” But he knew, it wouldn’t matter how it came, the news was not good.

The rest of the day and now, I still feel a sense of sadness as I know I am not the only one. The media has continually been interviewing his friends, showing past Parts Unknown (his show on CNN), and my social media is covered with his face.  Mainly, because I follow many chefs. I have a big interest in the culinary scene due to Bourdain.

After a pilgrimage to Italy in 2006 which came with much anxiety because of fear of travel, my craving for food and travel grew.  At that time, to my knowledge, there were not many travel shows other than Rick Steves and Samantha Brown.  Much to my delight, the Travel Channel gave us No Reservations where I first became acquainted with Bourdain’s witty culinary ways.  It right away captured for me an escape from my life in concrete Phoenix suburbia, track house living.

The trip to Italy placed a sense of adventure in me that I knew had to be somewhat contained. Let me preface here, my life is greatly blessed.  To date, my husband and I have traveled abroad two more times after our first Italy trip (London, Paris, Italy again). We travel within the States quite often.  However, I long for travel in the sense that I would like to discover it like Bourdain captured it.  Places not necessarily on the tourist map.

On Sunday’s, I would look forward to his latest episode.  Where was he now? Thailand. Croatia. Turkey. Sicily.  His demeanor was also a familiar connection to me.  He had a bad boy, rebellious nature. Reminded me of my youthful past and the group of friends I hung around with. His taste in music too was much like mine. A like of rock n roll and classics.  His wit also had me laughing as I was amused by how no matter whom he had in his show, he never changed himself to interact with them.  He had them laughing. Giving me a sense that no matter what part of the world you are in, we are all the same.

Once his show went from the Travel Network to CNN, I stayed with it.  I adapted a viewer relationship via his program.  This means about 12 years of fan watching.  And with social media, there became another connection.  It gave the fan a closer connection to his person who we all believed had the best job in the world. Travel and eat the best food. What could be better? He was the one who introduced me to taking pictures of food and share my experience of it.

He was also very vocal on Twitter about social issues.  One in particular had to with the Mexican immigrant and how interwoven their culinary skills are wrapped in America’s fabric.  Always pointing out that if we were to walk into any kitchen across the U.S., you would for sure find Mexicans working the kitchen, citizen or not.

Bourdain was not a believer.  Often on his show, he would give a tidbit on how he couldn’t rationalize believing in a higher power.  I don’t recall him ever pointing out one god over another or Jesus in particular, but he was clear he didn’t believe in any of it. Even when his close friend Eric Rippert was on his show speaking about Buddhism, you could see Bourdain wasn’t fully embracing.  Despite him not having faith, I never heard him bash anyone for believing.  But I know, it would strike him if he felt a religion was, in his view, destroying a people or nation.

So why do I dedicate a blog to him?

Bourdain’s suicide not only shook me, but it had my mind going.  I thought of my cousin Gil who committed suicide in 2010.  Thought of my Godmother who was married to him, his two sons, his family. All of us who went through that day with them. The feeling of life spiraling out of control. The big black hard depth of despair.  The confusion. The pain.

Here we all saw this man Bourdain on TV just about every week or on social media, seeming to live the life we all wanted. Celebration. Laughter. Good food and beautiful environments. But it wasn’t all true. I mean, did he have that?  Yes, I do believe he did. But he also had demons that wouldn’t let him go.

In his early life, he became addicted to heroin.  He spoke about the struggles of it and also shared how he was ‘recovered’, yet always conveying, recovery is day to day. Each day, he worked at it as many recovered addicts do.  I understand this well.  My Dad was a recovered addict. Difference was, my Dad found Jesus and lived his life with freedom from it.

However, from current family who is an addict, heroin is the worst of all drugs you could ever become addicted to.  This is one that has effects for the rest of your life. Now, that’s what I have heard scientifically, but I place all in God and know that if Jesus was in their life, it would be different. And you know, I’m no expert and I don’t want to go into heroin effects, mental illness, when is it not mental illness and we call it a demon, or lack of faith issues.  I don’t have expertise to discuss.

But what I do want to write about is the soul and how our faith responds to someone who has taken their life.

Because Bourdain was a self confessed non believer, my thought process on his passing made me think about the soul like I haven’t encountered before.  Some of his fans were leaving comments on Twitter or Instagram, saying things like “hope you have peace now in heaven or hell wherever you are’, or ‘give them hell’, etc.  I thought what darkness!

In my prayer time and reflection about Gil came forth. Thinking about his time of death and what we as a family learned. Although, Gil did believe in Jesus and was Catholic, family was confused on whether his soul went to heaven. And what I found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church forever changed my outlook.

Suicide

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

Bourdain stood up for the marginalized. He brought to light topics of the poor, no one else was touching in this form of media. He used his celebrity to bring witness, life that the world sees as dejected because they don’t live like we live.  But in reality showed more riches in their cooking or family members.   In a sense, we saw the Beatitude come to life “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  And he used that compassion, which I believe was placed in him by God. Even though, he never claim that. And it wasn’t always about the poor, but sharing stories of those living with wars around them.

In God’s mercy, we leave his soul and others who have taken their lives in such despair.  For we really do not know. I for one need to be aware to check on another.  From the one who we think has it all together to the one who looks like they are crumbling.

My food pics and travel will forever have root in Anthony Bourdain. For these I leave…

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Help us Lord to be more aware. Help us with courage to speak to those who do not show their belief in you Jesus, so that we may direct them to your love and mercy.  For we know as St. Peter says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Heaven is not out there only in the sky, but can by the grace of God, can be attained in the heart with true joy.  In how Your peace can allow them to breathe again. +++

Rome…veramente!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been bugging my husband about returning to Rome for a vacation.  However, lately, it’s really been aching me.

 

Thankfully, we have been to Italy twice – 2006 and 2008.  Both experiences helped us to see a little bit more of Italy.  Stops in Venice, Orvieto, Assisi, San Gimignano, Pisa, Siena, Chianti, Florence, Castel Gandolfo, and of course, Rome.

Since I was little, I have had a love for all things Italian. My favorite food has always been Italian and to clarify I’m American-Mexican.  My family still to this day likes to joke with me on how this makes no sense.  I can’t deny what it is I have passion for.  How do you fake it?

When we traveled to Rome in 2006 for a pilgrimage, everything catapult to whole new level of love.  I felt a strong connection to the culture, food, art, and spirit.  Needless to say, my Catholic faith grew because it was visibly all around.  Not like back home!

When we went back to Italy in 2008, I went with deeper appreciation, although I was still recovering from CDiff, so I couldn’t fully embrace due to stomach issues.

It’s now been 9 years and lately, I feel like I have some restlessness these days about traveling back.

As we know, the political times are not good.  Talks of war between the U.S. and North Korea are heightened everyday.  My husband feels now isn’t the time to go and when I share about that with others, some say, is it ever the right time?

It makes me sad.  How beautiful and diverse our world is created by our Father God to seek and learn from.   To grow with our neighbor, to share in prosperity of brotherhood, and to reap joy in our differences.  But yet, North Korea has a different outlook and now all the world waits to see what will happen next.  I know I’m not the only one who is praying for this threat to end.

But aside from this, my love for Italy is going a bit bonkers these days.  I live in an area where there isn’t much culture.  There isn’t much variety.  For whatever reason, it just isn’t here.  I would love more self owned bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants that serve more than bar food, gelato shops instead of yogurt (please I’m so done with yogurt spots around here), and entertainment spots.  I try not to get me down, but when you want your heart to be filled with something, 2nd place doesn’t fill the void.

I always say, “if I ever win the lottery”… I would open up a bakery that provides international treats and best Italian coffee.   Name I won’t share. However, I would make sure to hire the appropriate pastry chef who can bake pastries from all over the world.

Question: What do you do when your heart yearns so much for something, but can’t be fulfilled?

     

I think I need to start praying to our Lord more intently and asking Him to replace this because it’s a bit consuming sometimes.

Until we can get to Rome, I’ll continue listening to my favorite Italian Radio http://studiodelta.radio.it/ , buy cappuccinos pretending they taste like Rome, dine at Italian restaurants who somewhat serve like Italy, view images off of Instagram,  and try new recipes.

Viva Roma!

 

This song is by Mario Venuti – Veramente

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Vegas Food

My husband and I get to Vegas at least twice a year.  I am fortunate to travel with him when he attends a conference first half of year and now for some reason, we love to go during the holidays.  The hotels go all out in their decor and that’s something I like to see and divulge myself in.

Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with the food circuit in Vegas. Either through chance, family reference, or food travel shows.

Vegas to me isn’t about gambling and club life. Vegas to me is food, food, food!!!  Vegas is Disneyland for adults!  It also has become an international mecca for me as it includes cuisine from all over the world.  It is also a spot where many foreigners gather.  Almost makes me feel like I am out of the country.

Here are a few pics of places I’ve gone to.

Places I like to eat/drink when in Vegas:

  • Paris Hotel – Mon Ami Gabi:  French Onion Soup
  • Aria – Carbone:  Bologonese
  • Aria – Todd English:  Fish and Chips
  • Aria – Jean Philippe Patisserie
  • Venetian  – Mario Batali/Otto Enoteca: Squash blossoms, antipasti
  • Venetian – Carlo’s Bakery:  Italian butter cookies
  • Caesar’s Palace – Francois Payard:  Macarons
  • Caesar’s Palace – Bejing Noodle
  • Bellagio – Buffet – Variety
  • Bellagio – Cafe
  • New York New York – Gallagher’s
  • Mirage – BLD:  Adult shakes
  • Cromwell – Giada: Bloody Mary and Rigatoni

 

 

Our Lady of the Rosary – San Diego, California

Our Lady of the Rosary church in Little Italy,  San Diego is a must every time we vacation there.  First of all, Little Italy is one of my favorite destinations.  Yes, because it gives me that Rome I desire everyday in my life.

So on Sunday’s, we attend Mass to begin our beautiful weather day in San Diego.

It’s not a very large parish, but it gives me that old time feel. The architecture, even the way the Priest projects his homily, makes me feel very connected to Our Lord.

The stained glass windows are tall and gives the church much reverence.  It’s hard to not keep staring at them.  And during mass, while the readings are read, I tend to look up at them and reflect. It all works together.

The pictures I have below are from multiple visits.

We were blessed during one of our visits, to celebrate Corpus Christi.  We joined in on the procession after Mass.

There is also a gift shop at the parish where I found my first My Saint My Hero bracelet. Now I have other items of their products and pass onto others as gifts. Look them up!

Their parish community seems to very much treasure what they have.  I always love going there.

I had to post this pic here as well.  On the same side of the church, other corner, there is an Italian bakery called Pappalecco.  Going to mass at Our Lady and then Pappalecco, goes hand in hand.

Everything is delicious.

So when in Little Italy, treat yourself to both.  You will never be disappointed.